Author, Speaker Psychologist, Pastor

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Heidi SAD photo for blog.JPG

Autumn! The leaves are turning, the weather is cooling, students are once again in school, hunters are in the field, fall sports are in full swing…….and some of us are starting to notice, once again, IT IS GETTING DARKER!!

For some people, the change in season, with the ebbing and flowing of sunshine, really is not a big deal.  However, for some of us, it becomes all too clear that days are shorter and dimmer, and ever cloudy day is noticed as we yearn for the brightness of that wonderful summer sun! This could indicate Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I have learned, in my 34 years of practice, the importance of tuning in to how clients talk during these seasonal changes.  Somewhere around 4 to 6 percent of the population is going to experience a winter depression, with perhaps 10-20 percent having some symptoms but not as extreme.  Are you one of these people? 

If you happen to live in the sunny south, you are unlikely to notice much.  When days are close to equal length, the necessary amount of sunlight you need is much more likely to be available.  But those of us in the Midwest and North who are prone to S.A.D are probably going to notice it, beginning around October and lasting until somewhere around April/May, depending on the year. 

Some of the more common symptoms are:

Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, loneliness, loss of interest, mood swings, or sadness

Sleep: excess sleepiness, insomnia, or sleep deprivation

Whole body: appetite changes (craving sugar/starch/carbohydrates, and sometimes an increase in caffeine consumption), fatigue

Behavioral: irritability,   social isolation

Also common: depressed mood, lack of concentration,  weight gain

SAD is actually one of the most carefully researched areas of psychology and psychological disorders.  The definitive summary of this research is the book “Winter Blues” by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD.  He summarizes 20 years of research done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

 He summarizes the treatment options that include:

1.    Light Therapy.  The development of affordable, lightweight but powerful LED lights have allowed the SAD sufferer much easier options.  The old lights were large, heavy, cumbersome and expensive.  SAD lights which provide the desired 10,000 lux of brightness, are available in stores, and on Amazon, often for under $200. 

2.    Medication:  Antidepressants can be used to manage symptoms of SAD as well.

3.    Psychotherapy and Counseling:  working with a counselor, psychologist, psychotherapist can often be a helpful adjunct to other therapies.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is, according to Dr. Rosenthal, one of the most effective strategies.

4.    Managing diet and nutrition along with exercise

5.    Monitoring Vitamin D levels.  Often your primary care physician can test you for any Vitamin D deficiencies, and recommend a supplement if indicated.

 

If this sounds like what you are currently experiencing, further reading can be extremely helpful, such as Winter Blues and Dr. Rosenthal’s other materials.

 

Consulting with an experienced therapist can help sort out your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that will help you even out your moods, even in the dark days of winter. 

Steven Wiese
Welcome to my new website and blog!
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As I write this today, Minnesota has just experienced a shift from a warm week with temperatures in the 90’s to rainy and cool in the 60’s.  Drastic change in temperature, pressure, and humidity are, of course, all part of living in the Upper Midwest. Seasonal change is one of the reasons many of us enjoy living here - and the weather always gives us something to talk about!  However, the seasonal changes also mean new adjustments to the way we live our lives. My clients arrived for morning sessions in shorts and t-shirts, and by evening they arrived wearing fall jackets.

Seasons in life are like that too - often welcome, due to the variety and new experiences, but also requiring sometimes very quick adjustments in our lives.  Sometimes, the seasonal changes are painful and difficult, so much so that we wish we could go back to another time, another season.

This new website is illustrative of the new season for me, personally.  When my first website went live, primarily as a means to get the word out about my practice and also my then-new book, The Illusion of Control, I was Director of the Center for Christian Psychological Services, and busy in my role as psychologist as well.  I was an Associate Pastor at North Heights Lutheran Church, Director of the North Heights Counseling Clinic, and traveling as a conference speaker with Ruth Graham and Friends.

At home, we had four of our five children still living at home, with our oldest deeply involved with YWAM in Australia.  Managing home life meant Sherry was a full time mom, homemaker, administrator, taxi driver, volunteer, with a family calendar color-coded for each kid’s activities.

Ten years on, I am no longer on a church staff, no longer directing and training volunteer counselors, and no longer part of a larger psychology clinic, and Ruth Graham and Friends is no longer active.  We are down to one at home, and our youngest in her sophomore year in college. The oldest three are married and living in Australia, South Dakota, and Minneapolis. And Sherry is working full time in the Forest Lake Area High School as a Special Education Paraprofessional finding a new, exciting and rewarding career.

The seasons have changed, and changed, and changed again in these 10 years.  

Now, as you can see on the website, I am working alone out of a small office Roseville, grateful for the billing and support services of Aimee Petra and her staff at Professional Services Consultants so I can focus on helping my clients.   A different season indeed! With those seasonal changes, there have been struggles, heartache, and challenges, as well as wonderful moments of encouragement, gratifying work with clients, and opportunities to look for new opportunities.

While going through these seasons of change, I continue to hold onto my life verse, as being true for me, and for those with whom I work:

Ephesians 2: 8-10
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Emphasis mine).

My hope is that I will continue to be guided by God and his Holy Spirit to those good works he has for me, and to encourage, prepare and support others as they discover what He has for them as well, and that this new website and blog will be an encouragement to those who find their way here.

And, may we all celebrate the many seasons of life as we experience and grow through them!

Steven Wiese